It can be hard not to overeat. You eat a healthy meal at home, think you’re doing well, then you head out and are surrounded by junk food. You get hungry, and pretty soon you’re at the local burger joint, diet forgotten.
The following six strategies have changed the game for you— now I’m healthier, enjoy my meals more and my appetite is low enough that, if anything, I have to make an effort to eat more.
There are plenty of spices and flavors that will make your food both tastier and healthier. Vinegar, which has been shown to lower the glycemic index (which means you metabolize the food more slowly), adds acidic flavor to salad dressings, sauces, and roasted veggies without a lot of calories.
When you get really hungry, you overeat. I know, groundbreaking stuff. When you overeat, you feel full, but then your insulin levels spike, causing you to feel tired, then hungry again … so you overeat again. Instead of trying to resist hunger, beat it to the punch. If you eat when you’re either not hungry or only slightly hungry, you’ll eat less and tend to eat more slowly. Eating less throughout the day is great, but having more energy is certainly a nice bonus, too.
liquid calories such as juices and sodas don’t fill you up, and their rapid digestion causes insulin spikes. So pass on the sweetened drinks and stick with sparkling or still water — you can flavor it with lemon, strawberries or cucumber if you want, but don’t pack your drinks full of calories. Aim to drink at least three-quarters of a gallon of water a day. Also, be sure to drink a glass about 20 minutes before each meal to take the edge of your appetite.
When you swallow food, there’s a sizable delay before you feel any satiation from it. This delay is usually between 10–30 minutes. Because of this delay, we tend to eat more food than we really need. And the faster we eat, the more we tend to consume, particularly later on in a meal. Chew each bite 10 times. Following this simple rule will cause you to eat more slowly, allowing your mind to catch up to your stomach. You’ll also enjoy your food more when you take the time to savor it.
Consume a shot of olive oil or a glass of water with a tiny bit of sugar (an exception to the rule on sugared beverages above) between meals. I prefer a handful of unsalted almonds. Doing this once a day dramatically reduced my appetite — this can be particularly true if you have a lot of weight to lose. It apparently regulates ghrelin, a hunger hormone, by weakening flavor-calorie associations. For this to work, the snack must be bland, and you should consume nothing else but water for at least an hour before and after the snack.
Knowing that your willpower is reduced when you’re hungry, and there’s more tempting junk food outside the home than in it, you should fill up on healthy food before leaving home. Keep a healthy snack, such as jerky, almonds or kale chips, right next to your front door, and eat some before you leave home. This will cause healthy food to “crowd out” unhealthy food in your diet, and make it much easier to pass on the junk food.